Entries Tagged as 'commentary'

what can voiceover talents learn from the kendall jenner pepsi commercial?

jenner_pepsiBack when I drank colas, Pepsi was my go to beverage. I drank Pepsi at least 3-4 times a day, from my high school days up to maybe 5-6 years ago. I loved the stuff, especially from a fountain. Mmmmmm!

Coke was not my beverage, always Pepsi.

Always.

One day I stopped drinking Pepsi, cold turkey, because I decided it wasn’t good for my stomach. No doctor’s orders, no major medical issue. Just a common sense decision for me.

If you still drink it, please enjoy one for me because it tastes great.

So this week when the controversy erupted over a new Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner, I was immediately interested because it was Pepsi. Then I was interested because the world was losing its mind about Pepsi being insensitive and tone deaf to social issues.

I’m going to blow right past that last part about Pepsi being socially insensitive, thus having to avoid reminding people that almost every brand is only as interested in an issue or position (social or otherwise) if they think it will somehow help them make money or save money.

Rather, I’m going to go to the lessons in this debacle that can be learned by voiceover talents because, really, nothing else matters. 😉

  • Lesson #1 ALL VOICE TALENTS ARE KENDALL JENNER

No, we’re not really attractive and wearing Victoria Secret underwear on stages. Only some of the voice guys do that. Allegedly!

But we, like Kendall, are given a script to follow, we agree with the concept, are unsure of how it will all turn out but have faith in the producers and directors we work with that they will perform professionally and responsibly. With that faith in hand and our God-given talents, we perform the job to the best of our abilities.

Sometimes the finished production is a masterpiece that we are proud to have our voice (if not our face) associated with. Sometimes it is so terribly produced and embarrassing that we are ashamed to even cash the check.

There are risks in every job and for voice talents and on-screen performers, that’s one of ours. Rarely when the finished project goes badly is it our fault and in this particular case, it’s not Kendall Jenner’s fault either. Note to KJ: cash the check kid, the embarrassment will fade and you’ll be fine.

  • Lesson #2 VOICE TALENTS DO NOT CONTROL CONTENT

Copywriters, executives, directors and producers get input into scripts, visuals, music and even what voice to use on commercials and narrations. The talent just performs as directed. Many a voice talent can tell you horror stories of a script that had such amazing potential but must have been “committeed” to death after the talent heard or saw the finished project. But their voice was still in there and there was nothing left to do but quickly and quietly move on to the next project. Note to KJ: do that. Move on to the next job. But if SNL or Kimmel calls you to do a spoof ad…if it’s written well, consider doing it.

  • Lesson #3 COMMERCIALS AND NARRATIONS HAVE NOT  YET CURED CANCER OR ENDED FAMINES

Voice talents and actors perform our work to the best of our abilities and we take our jobs seriously because we like the responsibility established when clients and brands entrust us to perform.

But let’s not take ourselves TOO seriously.

We love and respect our voice acting and on-camera acting professions because they are noble ones, but our work has little (not none but little) significant impact on our world. We educate, we inform, we lobby, we sell, we entertain.

But our work is highly unlikely to prevent or cause the end of the world.

This Pepsi ad wasn’t so much insensitive as it was just…a crappy ad. That point has nothing to do with any talent shown in the spot.

The visual message of this Pepsi ad tried to commercialize the nation’s highly charged opinions (bad starting point) into a marketable, happy, non-political spot. The only nice thing I can envision for the brand on that point is that Pepsi may have meant well.

But the spot failed well beyond people’s hurt feelings. And those failings are the reasons the spot should have never aired, beyond the politically charged subtext.

The spot didn’t influence the audience, it didn’t build up the brand and most importantly —above everything else…it didn’t sell any soda. Had that spot run for a year, I doubt it would have move any cans off the shelf.

Pepsi’s job is not to bring about peace. The product satisfies a physical thirst. Sell THAT guys!

Capturing the modern zeitgeist may have been Pepsi’s objective, tying the brand in with the target audience’s desire/demand for justice and equality.

They just forgot to sell the soda.

And selling the soda, not selling world justice, is Pepsi’s only real job.

That’s our job too.

That’s it.

award season? again?

Voice Arts Awards 2017It’s award season again and that means the start of the great voiceover debate.

There is only one real all-encompassing awards program for all voice talents, produced by the Society Of Voice Arts And Sciences. In its 4th year, the Voice Arts Awards allow voice talents, producers, engineers et al to submit their works for judging and possible award recognition.

There was skepticism when this award program came out (including on these pages) because (not unlike other awards programs) the nominees submit their works and pay a submission fee and fees to buy their awards. The skepticism and debate surround whether hubris or public relations was better served by such an opportunity.

And there will again be debate; there will again be questions as to why anyone would do this. And there will again be lots of people submitting their work for awards. I noted a while back that if this Awards program can outlast the critics and last some years, the debate will be quelled because such a program will just become the new normal.

Unless there are indignant voice talents with ferocious opinions (and usually not enough voiceover work to keep them off social media), people move on with their lives. Programs like these just need to outlast the skeptics.

If people feel the need to pay and submit for an award, ok. If you don’t want to, ok.

As for myself, I’m not submitting. That’s not an indictment, I just don’t feel the need. To each his own.

However, I might consider buying a ticket to go to the show? Why?

Well, last year, they did the awards on the Warner Bros. Studio lot. Have you ever been to the WB lot? I have and it is amazing. Uh-mazing. So many famous backdrops from so many movies and TV shows. It’s such fun.

The Voice Arts Awards web site has not yet announced if they are going back there this year but if they do….I gotta give that trip some thought.

You guys enjoy the award show, I’ll be touring the back lot!

the moral of the voiceover story

audioconnell ethics in voiceoverOne of the many panel discussions that took place at VO Atlanta talked about Ethics in Voiceover. Fortunately, the discussion was not entitled “In Search of Ethics in Voiceover”.

That would have been sad.

Overall, ethics-wise, I think the voiceover industry does pretty well. Maybe an 80-85 out of 100.

Ethics is defined, as you probably know, as being the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.

We all have ethics and morals but differing degrees of each.

I did not attend that session because I was doing something else so I cannot give a fair (or really any) representation of the discussion.  Those who did attend seemed to enjoy it.

One of the panelists during that particular session is a voice talent I have been friendly with for a number of years and who is also a fellow blogger, Paul Strikwerda. According to his published statistics, his blog is much more widely read than mine.

Here, I just have you and me, while Paul’s blog is read by thousands. Can’t say as I blame the readers because I’ve read my stuff. Just long winded pablum here 🙂 .

So Paul wrote about his experience at VO Atlanta on his blog and also about his answers during the Ethics Panel he was a part of. Having read his responses on the blog, I do not take exception to any of his answers because his answers about ethics come from his perspective and they are his way to approach his business. We all do this individually in every line of work – which is precisely what makes such a public discussion tricky, in MY opinion.

But the one question from the panel that Paul highlighted in his blog (I believe he was asked the question, he did not ask it himself) elicited from me a response different from Paul’s.

Two people, two perspectives, each right within their own views. Your milage may vary. Consult your doctor before taking any medications.

The question was:

Do voice talent have an obligation to consider the impact of their pricing on the greater voiceover industry?

Paul’s full answer to the panelist’s question can be found here, but in short, his answer is yes, talent do have an obligation to consider the impact of their pricing on the greater industry.

Peter’s full answer to the question can be found below, but in short, his answer is no, talent do not have an obligation to consider the impact of their pricing on the greater industry.

Full disclosure: if you asked ’15-20 years ago Peter’ the answer to this question, I would have said ‘yup, they do…no low balling ever, hurts all of us! End of story.’ I might have even stomped my foot or harrumphed! Possibly both.

‘Today Peter’ still believes that that lowballing is a lose-lose tactic. It’s a poor business tactic that to me shows desperation, a horrible lack of self worth and undermines the low bidder’s professionalism (both real and perceived). So I don’t do it and I don’t think others should either.

I’ve said so many times, in many forums. Again, sometimes with a harrumph!

But in this panel discussion, the question focused on whether there is an ethical obligation to consider your fellow voice professionals when crafting your own pricing.

From a competitive and business standpoint? Sure.

From a moral stand point, no.

All low-ballers are not unscrupulous opportunists. I know this because I’ve met some of them, spoken with them and heard their stories. One would be unfair, unkind and unprofessional to paint these folks that I’ve met with a broad brush stroke of being sleazy or something worse.

But I would generally categorize these low ballers as often (but not always) being desperate, somewhat ignorant regarding business and most surely lacking professional confidence. Those that I have met are guilty on all three counts. Do their actions hurt our industry? Yup.

But what are their reasons for their low rates? Let’s look at that for a moment.

Of the three categories above, I’d like to focus on desperate. Specifically, I mean financially desperate.

Whether it’s to make a mortgage payment, a car payment or just put food on the table, many of the low-ballers in voiceover that I have met don’t have much money and aren’t sure how to make it. They cannot listen to nor hear a discussion about fair pricing in VO because they have significant money issues as well as an unceasing fear throbbing in their head that drowns out the discussion.

For better or worse, that is their life situation. They are in survival mode, sometime barely survival mode.

Now, the harder edged me of some years ago would have told them ‘then maybe VO isn’t for you and get out of the business’ or at least get a second job! But watching and listening, I see how edicts and absolutes don’t fit each and everybody.

So am I to stand on a rock looking down on these low-baller folks with a pointed finger and a booming voice, questioning their moral responsibility to their fellow voice actors about pricing if they can’t feed their kids because they lost a job by charging $50 more, just so it fell in line with industry standards? Short answer: no.

Regarding the above statement, I will add here, lest you think I’m being accusatory, I do not believe Paul or many others would answer yes. In addition to the individual perspectives that I mentioned earlier, there are always individual situations. That’s why ethics and morality are necessary but they are soooo tricky. You gotta look case by case.

Yes there ARE really sleazy individuals and companies in voiceover who undermine our professional standards, including rates. Those folks need to be publicly and frequently called out for their unprofessional behavior. Bang the drum, hand me a drum stick!

But I cannot personally exclaim a universal moral decree that every voice talent must think of others (and fall in line) when crafting their pricing structure. If you need that, join a union, which is built on a national rate card! That’s a real benefit.

My point is not every low baller is “a bad guy”.  And beyond that, there are no simple or absolute answers.

vo atlanta 2017

VO_Atlanta_LogoHaving now attended two VO Atlantas, I am pleased to say that I believe this one was better than the last one. Better organized, better programmed and, not that they can control this aspect (and it’s completely subjective on my part) but their seemed to be a better mix of people.

MaryLynnWissner_VoicesVoiceCastingFor me, the most impressive part of the programming was the list of producers, performers and agents organized by MaryLynn Wissner (pictured) of Voices Voicecasting.  The talented folks, including Lori Alan, Scott ParkinJeff Howell, J.J. Jergens, Vince Lebica, Thom Pinto and Cissy Jones, were insightful, honest and (as I was fortunate to find out) fun to hang out with.

MaryLynn was working with me on coaching and my commercial demo when during one of my sessions she went over the list of people she had brought together for VO Atlanta. That sealed the deal for me.

I won’t give you a blow by blow of what I learned because you don’t care – you go to conferences to learn what YOU want to learn, you don’t need to know what I needed to learn.

Bottom line – I enjoyed it.

Anything I’d change? Well…

The one problem I had with the conference was the fact that when the schedule was published on line, it did not have details on each presentation published with the time and date. In other words, you could read about the topic title, the who, and the when but NOT the what.

A conference producer needs to demand of its presenters and a presenter needs to provide well in advance of his/her presentation an informative general overview of what they will be speaking about or what a panel will be talking about. People making a buying decision – like whether or not to attend a voiceover conference – need information. That didn’t happen the way it should with VO Atlanta.

And that’s it. That’s my complaint.

Now sit back and realize all the effort, time and details that go into planning such a massive event and you’ll realize that my complaint (singular) is valid but small compared to the big picture.

Now you’re going to ask me if YOU should go to VO Atlanta next year. You’ll have to wait and see.

A good conference this year or a bad conference six years ago doesn’t matter. It’s all about the programming.

It’s the programming, when compared to what you need to learn to build your business, that should guide whether or not you attend any conference.

Being seen, or just getting away or just hanging with your VO buds is nice — but it’s not a good business plan.

Put it on your calendar, maybe store some cash away for the expenses, then look over the program when it comes out. You’ll know then whether the smart move for you is to pull the trigger or walk away. Only you will know. Only you matter when it comes to that decision.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

‘you were their second choice’

2nd place trophy audioconnellA silver lining?

I prefer streets paved with gold.

But life doesn’t usually let us win every voice-over job and so it went today as I was advised, “you were their second choice”.

If you’ve been in voiceover for more than a day (and I’m not sure what percentage that is at the moment) you’ve likely been told at some point you were a prospect’s second choice for a voiceover job.

If you’ve been up for a job in almost any industry, you may have been told you were a second choice.

It happens. Now what?

Well nothing really. The bus left without you so you need to see about getting a different ride.

Sure, you can punch a wall or kick a dog (I’m personally OK with the wall option but not the dog…ever) but it doesn’t fix anything.

The real answer is that if it festers too much inside you, you need to get mentally tougher or quite seriously quit the voiceover business. The voiceover business is a business filled with rejection. Which is why it’s so great when you do land a new VO job.

As Pollyannaish as it might sound, it is not a bad thing to come in second. First is best but third is worse.

The point is your performance was really, really good. However, left up to the SUBJECTIVE (look it up) ear of a producer, they liked one other voice better. You cannot control that. No one can.

So if you can’t get over learning you came in second on a voice gig after more than about a minute, start working on your resume because you will need to look for a new job. I mean it. Get out of voiceover, for your own good.

Everybody else…move on. As I know you already have. Good job.

And congrats on that audition…you truly nailed it.

an o’connell finally wins an oscar®

MY name was THIS close to being called by OSCAR® presenters Sunday night as a winner. And that is 100% true.

But I know you doubt me, so I shall endeavor to explain.

Back in 1964, after having welcomed their 4th (and subsequently deemed their “whoops” baby), Joseph and Mary O’Connell had picked a name they liked for their new son. He was to be called Kevin Kinney O’Connell.

Except on the drive home from the hospital, Joseph had a change of heart on the name for his 3rd son. He liked the name Peter, as in Saint Peter Canisius and the Apostle Peter — “upon this rock I shall build my church” — that Peter.

So the newborn left the hospital as Kevin Kinney O’Connell and arrived home as Peter Kinney O’Connell.

Flash forward to the 89th annual OSCARS® where, for the 21st time, a universally respected sound designer named Kevin O’Connell was nominated for an award. O’Connell had been winless each time since his first nomination for the movie Terms of Endearment in 1984.

This time, in the category of Best Sound Mixing, Kevin O’Connell won the OSCAR® for his work on the movie Hacksaw Ridge.

An O’Connell had finally won an OSCAR® . Kevin O’Connell.

Just not THIS Kevin O’Connell. 🙂

I am not related to the man. I do not know the man. I am none the less thrilled for the man.

The best Kevin won. Congratulations.